IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Adventure Race Of Our Own

Well, it's day 4 and I'm STILL recovering from the climb up 103 flights of stairs. Now, I figure the pain in my legs must be from the stair climbing because I've never felt this sore this long after any marathon or Ironman.

There has been a small little adventure race put on 2 of the last 3 years by my tri-buddy, none other than CJB. After a year of haitus, it is with great pleasure that I announce we will be having the 3rd RAYOR Adventure Race right here in our back yards. This race is being put on by CJB and the
Chicago Triathlon Team Luna Chix, of which I am a member of.

This is a perfect event for beginners. These will be 2 person teams and the event will last 4 hours, so you just collect as many clues as you can in the allotted time. The sections include (in no particular order):

  • Mountain biking
  • Metro trek - 1 person on scooter or skates, 1 on foot
  • Kayak
  • Orienteering
  • Mystery events

  • The registration is $40 per team and 100% of the entry fees will go to the Breast Cancer Fund.

    So, if you're in the area and you'd like to check out what an adventure race is like, this is the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet! Registration is until we reach 30 teams or Oct. 25th, whichever comes first. Just post a note to me if you'd like more information OR if you'd like to volunteer!!

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    Recovery Day 2

    The night after the Scallion, I couldn't really sleep. Sometimes when you exert yourself so much, you're too sore to sleep...or something like that. I didn't get home until after 11pm that night, yet at 3:15 am, I was wide awake. But the following day (Sunday), wasn't too bad. Sure, my quads were a bit sore, that's to be expected. I felt like I had just run a hard half marathon.

    But today - Monday - YEEEOOOOWWWWWW! I can barely move! To think I expected to run 3 miles this evening was just ridiculous!! Every time I get up off the chair, I need to use my arms as much as I can. The worst, of course, is going down stairs. At the office, I must've looked like I was handicapped or something because I had 3 guys rush to me to ask if I was OK and if I needed help down the stairs. It's quite embarassing when everyone asks you what's wrong and if you're OK.

    Then when you tell them how you punished your body ON PURPOSE and that you ENJOYED it, people look at you like you're crazy. Unless you've ever experienced something like this, you cannot understand what keeps you coming back for more. And you can't understand the bonding that goes on during a race like this. It's not to say the whole time we laughed and got along, but we helped each other and supported each other through one tough adventure. There were jokes, slams, name calling, and the usual banter. But there was also teamwork, encouragement, and true friendship.

    I am so sore today. I think this is worse than any marathon or Ironman I've ever done. My quads are definitely the worst, but the calves ache, too. Not to mention the neck and shoulders. Just a couple more days and I plan to be back to normal. And I am so excited that I don't feel like I'm catching a cold. Spending 8.5 hours in the cold and rain isn't exactly the best thing you can do for yourself.

    So, I'm enjoying my time on the couch this evening. But with the half marathon this weekend, well, I can't relax TOO much!!

    I can't believe I think I've just been converted into an Adventure Racing enthusiast!! Sometimes, I shock myself.

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    Wild Scallion 2006

    Our team must've exchanged over 100 emails and/or voicemails in the week before this race. Over half of these were "what do we wear"? We had one very experienced adventure racer, Captain J-B, myself with one previous A/R under my belt, and one person who was breaking her cherry into the sport. For this race, I actually did track weather reports ahead of time. The last time I did this race, it took us about 8 hours or so and I froze almost the entire time. It's a miserable way to spend the day, so I didn't want that to happen again. The forecast was calling for mid 60s and rain...oh, we were guaranteed some rain on race day.

    Captain J-B (CJB) supplied us with a list of things to bring. He and I argued about many of the items on the list, especially his request that we bring 2 bike helmets. Not to mention, CJB feels the need to be the first one in transition no matter what race he goes to. So this race starts at 11:00am, but he wants to leave at some crazy hour, but I think he knew his 2 teammates were going to argue if he gave us some obnoxious hour to meet. We agreed on 7am.

    Now, I wasn't overly crazy about doing this race last time. I was miserably cold and I felt completely useless to my team. And the only reason I agreed last time was that the female of that co-ed team sustained an injury that prevented her from participating in the race. I didn't want my other 2 friends, who could find NO OTHER FEMALE to race with, to miss out on something they looked so forward to, so I reluctantly agreed to that one. And at the finish of that race, a fellow racer, and good friend, asked me what I thought of the end of that race. I said it was crazy and I would never do this again.

    Yet here I was. I got suckered in to THIS race because of a friendly little rivalry of triathlete friends. There were 2 women and 1 man on each team, and it should have been a pretty equal race. While we were on our way to the race site, we got a phone call from one of the other team members stating they were already there. "WHAT???", I thought. That should've tipped me off on what was to come. We pulled into the parking lot and found one of the other team members quickly. After a friendly exchange, we then saw another familiar face, a guy who is not only a phenomenal triathlete, but a killer Adventure Racer! His navigation skills are second to none and I know he's been on sponsored adventure race teams before. Little did we know, he was now racing with our friends. Unfortunately, one of their team members was feeling under the weather and they called this guy last-minute to try and save their team.

    Well, this changed everything. No longer were we racing the other team, we were just out there having fun now. There was no way we could beat that team unless something went seriously wrong. My focus then went off of them and on to beating as many other teams out there as we could. I also really wanted to have fun this time. It's a long day when you're not having fun!!

    I must say that CJB spends countless hours thinking about cool little tricks that will help us in this race. If there's any way to make something lighter, easier, more comfortable or just plain cool, he's going to come up with it. Transition was in the middle of this big, grassy field which was already a little soft from all the rain we've recently had. We had one of the best tents out there...we had a waterproof tarp for the floor, and the waterproof tent had sides and a zipper front. It was, by far, the best tent out there...which caused problems for us later. It was definitely going to keep us and our things dry for the day ahead of us.

    The start of the race was at Northerly Island which is the old Meigs Field. The first section required us to run to the Sears Tower and up 103 flights of stairs. I had a short-sleeved underarmor shirt on under the matching bike jersey with the Scallion bib (where you have your number). We were team that number. I was always a big Walter Payton fan and I took it as fate that this was going to be a good day! I went back and forth on whether to wear armwarmers or not for the start. We were going to be running, so I'd probably get warm quickly. At the last minute, I balled up the armwarmers and tucked them into a slot on my fuel belt, but I kept a pair of gloves on. I have a sometimes have a problem keeping my hands and feet warm.

    All the teams were gathered at the start. We said good luck to the other team (not like they'd be needing it) and before I knew it, we were off and running across the field. There are a few things about adventure racing that make it different than other types of racing:

  • Pace yourself, it will be a long day
  • Speed doesn't always necessarily win the race
  • The fastest route isn't always a straight line
  • You're only as strong as your weakest link

  • We ran for what seemed like forever (but was really only about 3.5 miles) to the Sears Tower. In the building we go and each team got one bottle of water to split. Ick. Cooties. My teammates were so good to me and know what a germ-a-phob I am, so I got to take the first drink. Then we were off to climb to the top. I gave one of my teammates one of my other gloves. It helps to pull yourself up the railing and the railing was already soaked from all the other competitors' sweat, so the glove helpted. For the first 20 flights, I wanted to go around these slow people. CJB kept telling me to slow down and pace myself. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, towards the 40th floor, I started losing steam. I was sweating profusely and breathing heavily. My legs felt fine, but my lungs felt like they were about to explode. After about 10 more flights, I had to ask to stop. I bent over, gasping for breath. I was leaving a little sweat puddle where it was just dripping endlessly off my face. I was commanded to take my shirts off, it would keep my cooler. That stairwell was very stuffy. I didn't think it would help, but I would try anything. I didn't want to have to tell my teammates I couldn't make it. I thought to myself, "WHY does this feel so hard!???! I am an Ironman, I can DO THIS!" Almost immediately after taking off the underarmor and bike jersey, I felt better. Let's GO!

    Another 25 flights and my teammates knew I needed to stop again. We drank what was left in our fuel belts, rested a quick 30 seconds, about 7 teams passed us, and we pressed on. I could not believe how hard this was. CJB kept telling me this was the hardest thing we would do all day. He also said, "You're an f-ing Ironman, now get up those stairs!" He was right. This wasn't going to break me. We jumped back on the stairs and I felt pretty good. There were already teams on their way down, telling us "good job, you're almost there." I hate that. Twenty more floors, thought it seems like it, isn't really "almost there". It's like telling someone at mile 20 of a marathon "you're almost there!" UGH! I think we made one more quick stop just to catch our (or maybe just my) breath and we got faster the closer we got to the top. WOO HOO - there was air conditioning at the top! I immediately found a clear spot and sat down. I just needed to bring my heart rate back down before I could make that journey down the stairs. I felt so good, though, that I was done with that challenge. We were done with the most physically challenging part of the day.

    We sat for maybe about a minute, saw the other team we knew, they looked so fresh and they were off within seconds. I jumped up and said let's go...down will be a piece of cake! Well, yes, we were moving much more quickly down than we were going up. But these stairs are a bit narrow and I'm very nervous going down because I have a hard time fitting my size 10 foot on these tiny little stairs. And the stairs were a bit slippery from all the sweat of the other racers. So, I held on the railing so if I slipped, I had a chance I'd catch myself. That, or I fall right into CJB, which would probably hurt him more than me.

    We shared another bottle of water at the bottom of the stairs and we were on our way back toward the lake. Both us women put our shirts back on as it was a bit nipply wen we exited the Sears tower. Our shirts were absolutely soaked through with sweat, which normally disgusts me, but in a racing situation, it's something you just deal with. I immediately pitched my glove, which had all the nasty hand railing sweat on it, into the nearest trash can. We ran at a nice, steady pace toward our next checkpoint.

    The next little fun thing we get to do is walk in the lake...I don't know how far, but if I could've swam it, I probably could've been faster. All 3 of us took off our shoes, but left the socks on, in order to try and keep the shoes dry. We had to read the letters on each of 4 buoys while walking through the water as a team, with arms locked or holding hands. For some reason, CJB wasn't really good at this. It was like his feet turned to lead and I kept trying to drag him through the water. We went shallower so he would have an easier time. The letters were T-E-A-M. We got to the end and put our shoes on...getting them wet in the process, go figure! Then it was on to coasteering, which is navigating your way across some large rocks. This was just a little tricky, because all of our shoes were slippery from being wet. Last time I did this, we went about a mile, and I thought it was my favorite part of that race. Unfortunately, this time, it lasted less than 10 minutes. We were just about a quarter of a mile from transition. We jumped in the tent, each ate a hamburger (thanks CJB!), I dumped my underarmor, added a camelback, put on a fresh pair of socks, changed the orthotics from one pair of shoe to the next and we were ready to go! Very quick transition!

    Now we're off to Schiller Park woods, maybe some 20+ miles on bike, to our orienteering course. We got on our bikes and it felt like a break from all the running and the stairs! We were not on our bikes for 10 minutes before it started to rain. We immediately pulled over and took out the waterproof (or so we thought) jackets we had tucked in our camelbacks. In the time it took for us to pull over and put them on...IT STOPPED RAINING!!! WTF??? We left the jackets on and continued on up the lakefront path. We cut over at Irving Park and make the very long ride on out to First Avenue. It started to rain. It was more than a drizzle, but not quite a downpour. It took away our ability to draft on the bikes because of the water shooting up from the bike in front of you. We were yelled at by a few drivers and it felt like we were stopped at every other red light. The good thing was, none of us was cold.

    We arrived to the orienteering course and the place to dump our bikes was like a big mud pit. Our shoes and socks were already soaked through, what's a little bit of mud going to hurt?? Now, I'm not good at directions. I'm not good with maps. But what I did have on this day was an endless amount of energy. We were to use the tool at each point to punch little holes in different shapes at each checkpoint. We were the only team that went the backwards route, from point 8 to point 1, and it helped to see where the other teams were coming from. We saw our friends around check point 5, which means they were still a bit ahead of us, but less than we would've expected. One point was in the middle of the woods, through a bunch of mud (I despise getting dirty), yet another was through a field of weeds and grass that were taller than I was! KK took a tumble in the forest, landing on her pinky finger, but she was a true sport about it, and just got up and kept going. We moved quickly and we jogged between checkpoints and I have to think we made up some time on those people that were able to do those stairs quicker than I was! DAMN those stairs, why did that feel so hard! I spent most of the day trying to "make up" the time we lost there because of me.

    While KK and I were making a pit stop, CJB was getting the map for the next part. We were praying they cancelled the trail portion of this race on bike because we had road bikes. There would be no way we could complete that section. Because of the downpour of rain, thankfully, it was cancelled. We rejoiced, we had made the right choice in selecting our road bikes for this race! We went on to a series of checkpoints on the bike. And the rain came down harder.

    We went to Malcom X College as one of the checkpoints and, at one time, we thought, gee, the rain could NOT get worse. We were wrong! Almost immediately after leaving the college, the wind picked up and we were being pelted in the face with rain drops. I don't ever remember being hit in the face with rain drops and feeling like it hurt before! For miles, we rode in the rain and I made most of that journey with one eye closed. I was fighting to keep my contacts in. Between the wind and the rain being blown into my face, I thought for sure I was going to lose one. It wasn't a very safe feeling, riding a bike in the pouring rain, with one eye closed. I just hoped my teammates would warn me if a car was coming.

    At some points, we had to ride through at least 6 inches of water. Luckily, CJB's knowledge of the city kept us right on track and we never really "screwed up" in our directions. We headed back to the transition area where all I could think of was putting on some dry shirts. I was amazed at how the rain didn't really get me very cold. Despite the downpour, I was having a great time! We took the trail into transition and there was a large section that was under water. CJB rode right through, but KK screamed and planted her feet when her bike must've hit a massive pothole in the trail. Thank God she didn't go down because I was right behind her. I had seen where CJB rode through, and I took that route and escaped unharmed. KK thought for sure she had gotten a flat, she hit that hole hard. But I told her, it doesn't matter, we're almost to transition and we're done with the bikes! Again, trooper that she is, we heard nothing more of that big hole she hit.

    We saw our friends were still in transition and I was shocked they weren't further ahead of us. Our day was going well. We walked into our tent and discovered people had been in there. They left huge puddles of water at the bottom of our tent. And, my mistake, my bag was on the floor of that tent. Everything in my bag was now soaked. I had no warm clothes to put on. I was ticked. Using someone else's transition area is like cheating. You don't touch another team's things...period. Our friends confirmed that they had seen at least 2 guys in our tent. I couldn't be more furious. It was one thing if mother nature had soaked my things on her own, but to have another competitor violate our space and cause my things to become waterlogged, well, I have NO TOLERANCE for cheaters.

    I choked down another hamburger, put on different clothes (they were no longer dry OR clean), put my orthotics back into the other pair of shoes, squeezed out my socks (I didn't have a 3rd pair!) and threw my raincoat on. At least THAT raincoat would keep my dry. At some point during the last section, it was decided that I was no longer scootering, I would be running. Not my favorite thing to do, but you gotta do what's best for the team. The next section needed to have one of us on roller blades, one of us on a scooter, and the other team member was the runner. Unfortunately, all 3 of us had to wear helmets. It's kinda goofy to wear a helmet while you're running! I'm not a very fast runner, but I still felt like I had a bunch of energy...that, and CJB told us I only had to run another 3 miles. (you can ask me what CJB stands for later).

    So we took off for what was to be the last section of the race. I couldn't believe the day was going so fast. I was truly enjoying myself. It helps to be with good friends...I don't think I would have survived the day had I done it alone. I yelled at those guys for being behind me. After all, they were on WHEELS, I had to run! Get up there and navigate, dammit! Within the first 15 minutes of this section. The rain stopped. The sun came out. GUESS I DON'T NEED THIS RAINCOAT! Ugh! Now I have to carry it the rest of the way! We went through various sections of the city, collecting different answers to questions, and I knew I had already run at least 5 miles. One was at Navy Pier, one was somewhere on Huron, then this other guy from another team yelled "EXCUSE ME" as he pushed by me on the sidewalk. WTF, go around, loser! And the team wasn't really following the rules as your whole team should be within 100 yards of each other. They clearly weren't following this, but whatever. He just ticked me off. As I kept going, he just STOPS in front of me, and now I have to run around him! DUDE, WTF? That did it for me, I'm not letting this team in front of me again. I yelled to my team, OK, where to next, and I just ran. I ran as hard as I could. I wanted to build up as big of a lead as I could on these guys. Yes, 3 guys, so they weren't even in our classification, but that guy had ticked me off! My teammates asked my why I was running so fast, but I think they knew.

    At the very next checkpoint, they caught up to us. Shoot. Now they gave that guy the scooter and some skinny guy started running. Damn, I can't keep up with him. Tried as hard as I could, but that guy was stronger than me. Let it go, we're almost there and we've had a great race. I ask CJB, "How much further?" I was getting tired. He said "Not very far." OK, that doesn't help! HOW MUCH FURTHER???? "Six blocks, he yells, six blocks!" "OK," I thought, "I can keep this up for another six blocks." By now it was dark and we had turned on our headlamps. Now I was THANKFUL CJB made us bring 2 helmets because we had strapped headlights on the second helmet. These came in very useful.

    We turned the corner and could see the finish line. CJB and KK flew ahead of me, but I was running as fast as I could. The events of the day had taken quite a toll on my quads and I was in pain just running to the finish. I tried SO HARD to catch those guys, and I could see they were only about 10 seconds in front of me, but that skinny dude can RUN! We crossed the finish line and were elated to be done!! We received our medals, certificate for a free Chipotle burrito (a highlight for me!) and got our picture taken.

    As a special bonus, CJB had stashed some dry sweatshirts and stocking caps for us near the finish line. Of course, we had to ask a cop to loan us a tire iron to help us open the manhole cover where the stuff was stashed (I know the guy thinks we're nuts), but it was SO WORTH it. I was shivering within minutes of finishing and without being able to put on a dry shirt, I'm sure I would have been miserable. It was yet another highlight of the day.

    We had a chance to catch up with the other team and share stories from the day. We all seemed to have a great time and I can't believe I'm going to say this, but yeah, I'd most definitely do this again! Next time, however, I gotta figure out how to climb 103 stairs without stopping AND how to prevent cheaters from busting in on our transition tent.

    Thanks to my teammates, CJB and KK, you guys were awesome people to hang with for the day. Even though I hated you both at different points throughout the day, I would definitely race with both of you again. And thanks to the other team for helping us, more than once, from screwing up our race and giving us a team to look for throughout the day. I'm already thinking of improvements for next year....

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Motivation - or lack therof!

    Well, it's been about a month since my last triathlon. I'm actually kinda bummed how happy I am that the season is finally over. This season was particularly difficult for me this year. It could be how drastically I had changed my training regimen, I had an Ironman early in the season, or perhaps the fact that I didn't really take any time off had something to do with it.

    The fact remains, I haven't been excited about training and/or racing for the past couple of months. It makes me wonder if I've just burnt myself out of the sport or if it was just simply a long season for me. I'm hoping for the latter because I spent way too much money on a nice bike just to ride it for 2 years!! This is the first year I haven't found myself going "Gee, I wish I was doing just ONE MORE RACE."

    I just received an email with an article that I found to be a bit helpful. It provides you with tips on what to do after your last race of the season. Hey, well, see, I already checked out the yoga!

    We are preparing for the Wild Scallion this weekend. It's a much different experience than triathlon. I don't feel any anxiety or pressure when doing a race like this, even though it will probably last more than half the day. Sure glad it's not another triathlon....

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006


    Well, here we are not even the end of September yet and it is getting cold here in Chicago. Last night, a few of us went on a short little run after work. Unfortunately, I don't pay enough attention to Tom Skilling, so I was completely unprepared for the chilly evening ahead.

    We were to meet around 5:45pm and start the run at 6:00pm. Because, living in Chicago, one can never predict what traffic the conditions will be like, I left myself an hour to get there. On this day, traffic was very light! I didn't have to cut anyone off, yell out the window OR flip the bird through my sunroof. It was a great traffic day! Only problem is, that got me to my destination about 20 minutes too early.

    Now one would think, "OK, then, go out and run 20 minutes until the others arrive." Well, not at this time in the season. My thoughts were more like, "Gee, I hope no one else shows up so I can just go home." If I didn't have a couple of pending races on my calendar, I think I'd be going home and sitting on the couch every night.

    Others arrived and I had a jacket on to try an keep a little warm. The past few days have been windy and the sun was rapidly setting. We were also going to be running in forest preserve, which is even a bit cooler. I wasn't the only one anxious to get the show on the road. There was a chance we had one more joining us, so after a quick call to her cell phone (I got voice mail), we decided to hit the trail.

    From the moment we started, my fingers and ears were cold. The wind never really died down, yet the temperature seemed to be dropping every minute! We talked, harassed each other, updated each other on recent race experiences and talked strategy for our upcoming adventure race. The time went quickly.

    Just as we were nearing the end of the run, we spotted a familiar face standing at the beginning of the trail. Uh oh, she showed up. And we had left her. We had only started about 7 minutes ahead of schedule, but that was enough time to ensure we'd never even known she arrived. I felt so horrible! We learned she also ran, she just didn't go as far out as we did. Thankfully she's a good sport and blamed it on herself for being late (she really wasn't).

    We blamed the chilly weather as our reason for starting. Couple the temperature with the sun quickly setting and we won't be able to have many more evening runs on the trail. Summer is just about over.

    Saturday, September 16, 2006


    Now I know Yoga is supposed to be "good" for me. I know we triathletes are supposed to try different activities in our off season, things like Yoga and Pilates, to make us more flexible and stretch different muscles. So, with great hesitation, I signed up for a Yoga class.

    I've only tried Yoga 2 other times. It was Bikram Yoga - where they keep the room 112 degrees and you start sweating almost the instant you step into the room. Now, aside from the fact that I feel completely ridiculous trying to contort my body into these obnoxious poses, the floor of that room was covered with carpet. And people sweat on the carpet. They walk on it with their bare, sweaty feet. I brought 2 large beach towels to that bikram class each time and they reeked of nasty, moldy carpet smell both times I came home. Not to mention, the class was almost an hour away from home. So I decided that the bikram yoga was not for me. That was about a year ago.

    This time, I signed up for "normal" yoga. The class is now about 20 minutes from home, and there would be no sweat splashing on to me from the other class participants, so I was thinking I hit the jackpot. I even bought my own little mat thingy for this class. I walked in with high hopes that I would walk out of the class feeling it was worthwhile and that I would benefit from it.

    I was about 10 minutes early and everyone else there knew each other. I was the youngest one in the class by about 15 years. Hmmmm. The rest of the class walked in, friends of mine (thankfully) and the class was due to start. But the instructor didn't really start yet. She was passing out "props", like blankets, blocks and a belt. No sooner were all the props distributed that she announced we would not be using the belt. Um, Okay.

    The first 15 minutes was her talking about the way she instructs class, she announces she is "hands-on" (Oh great, I HATE people touching me!) and that the last 15 minutes she usually does..uh...well, I don't know, I can't understand nor pronounce any of the yoga words she used. All the people that got there before me were previous class participants. How bad could it be, these people came back for another session, right?

    Well, I don't know. Maybe yoga just isn't my thing. We went through the first pose and the instructor paid a lot of special attention to the individual participants. However, the rest of us were just left there to watch, not really knowing what we were supposed to do. We only did about 4 poses the entire class. We did a lot of breathing. Yeah, well, I breathe every day, so why am I paying to sit in a class and breathe with a bunch of people? The 75 minute class seemed like an eternity and I was already kicking myself in the a$$ for committing myself to this class for 8 weeks. As the time slowly ticked on, I kept hoping it was going to get better.

    But the class ended and I felt no more stretched out than I did before I got there. I just lost 75 minutes of my life that I will never get back. So I thought it was just me. Maybe I just don't like yoga. I have a hard time relaxing, so I thought this just might be me needing to widen my horizons and go with the flow. But as I talked to my other friends that did the class, no one was impressed. We thought it was a waste of time and we've already begun formulating a plan on how we either get our money back or they create a more advanced class for us. After all, we do make up half of the class we just went through.

    So who knows? I was happy it wasn't "just me." But I'm not happy in that I know yoga is good fo me and that I need to learn to like it in order to be a better triathlete. I certainly didn't need an experience like this to turn me off this activity before I give it a chance.

    So I plan to go back next week. Maybe it will get better. Maybe they'll have to change the class up a bit in order to make it a bit more productive for us. It doesn't really feel like a "workout". But maybe it's not supposed to. I look back on my bikram experience and I have to say, at least I felt challenged and stretched out after one of those classes. Guess I gotta look for some sort of combo of these two versions of yoga....

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Volunteering at IMWI

    I have entered so many races. I realize that our sport could not be what it is without the volunteers. With that in mind, I decided to volunteer at IMWI this year, the "scene" of my first Ironman, just one year ago. I tried to be a wetsuit stripper, but that job was full. And after someone mentioned all the pee that would be sprayed on me as I did that job, I was just a little thankful that I didn't get that spot! I forgot about how we all pee in the wetsuit before a race! ICK!

    So, I ended up being a volunteer in the T1 change tent. Because I had raced Ironman before, I felt I knew everything there was to know about T1 and how best to help the athletes. I couldn't be more wrong.

    There was very little instruction given to us the morning of the event. There was a special volunteer meeting the day before, but I had missed it. Basically, we were told to stand near the entrance of the T1 area and "claim" the athletes as they started running through. There were about 25 of us and it seemed there were too many volunteers for this area.

    We chatted a bit and I learned that most of these women were not first-time volunteers to this race. The first 2 athletes I saw were the women pros. But as Andrea Fisher ran into T1, I stood in awe and couldn't believe she was right there in front of me. I frowned when I heard someone ask, "Hey, isn't that a guy...and what's he doing here in the women's changing tent?" But I'll bet Andrea gets that a lot. She's very tall and very muscular, but I assure you, she's very much a woman!!

    I ran over to help her with the very small amount of things she had in her bag for T1. I asked her what she needed and she said "vest". As she put her helmet on, I helped her on with what I thought was a very flimsy vest, given the weather conditions. Before she could get finished, Hillary (forget her last name) ran in. She was fast as lightning through the transition and, though Andrea had a good 20 second lead into T1, Hillary blew out of there before Andrea even got up off the chair. I couldn't believe these two were going out in this weather (the high was supposed to be around 61 degrees and RAINY) wearing almost exactly what they swam in. But these are professionals, and I just wanted them to have the most speedy, efficient transition as possible.

    And within seconds, they were both gone. All the volunteers simply looked at each other. It was amazing. Within the next few minutes, Lauren Jensen ran in. Yeah, OK, she ticked me off at Pleasant Prairie, but I'm still starstruck by her and I helped her get her socks and shoes on. She also pulled on armwarmers and definitely took the time to get dressed appropriately for the brutally chilly day ahead. The pros sort of whisper to you what they need as they try to catch their breath and flawlessly get ready for the next leg of the race. This was the 3rd professional I had the opportunity to watch and help prepare for the 112 mile ride, and I felt so honored. I think my hands were shaking more than theirs!

    In the next 10 minutes, several quick age groupers came in. As I checked my watch, I knew this was the group I would be in, had I been racing. These women were also very quick to change clothes and put on gear and sort of whispered to you what they needed. They had just swam 2.4 miles and ran up this spiral parking garage thing, so they were still trying to lower their heart rates and catch their breath. They weren't as smooth and fluid as the professionals, but these women were great athletes, and they knew it. It was all about business...get them ready and get them out of there!

    Things I had to keep reminding myself were: 1)ASK them if you can dump their bag before you do it, and 2)ASK them what they want first. I kept having a tendency to give them what I would put on first. What sucks is that I got better at it as the day went on, but the faster athletes were the ones who would have appreciated it more.

    I helped women put on shirts and bras that just seem to stick to you and roll up when you're wet. I helped women stretch out arm warmers over their cold, wet arms when their fingers could move enough to make a difference. I helped women pull on socks over their almost-numb toes so they could try to warm up before they got on that bike. The consensus was that this was a tough swim. Very choppy. And yes, I agreed, as I looked out at the water before the race started, I knew these athletes were in for a rough day. The swim was just the beginning.

    The women were so thankful. I cannot count the amount of times the women told me thank you, you're wonderful, you know just what I need, I appreciate you being here, I couldn't do this without your help, and one woman even told me she loved me and kissed me on the cheek! OK, well that was a little weird, but, hey, she was doing and Ironman, how bad could she be????!?

    I had 2 good friends racing and I knew they'd be in T1 between 1:20 and 1:30. So at that point, I looked around for them...and it was the most amazing site. There were women EVERYWHERE. They just plunked down wherever there was a free space, and they were just quietly changing all on their own. The volunteers were overwhelmed and there weren't enough of us to go around. It was complete chaos! The sweat dripped down my forehead and cheeks as I ran from athlete to athlete trying to help them in any way I could. I knew how valuable these volunteers were to me when I raced, and I wanted them to have the same positive experience I had.

    By this time, these women took their time. I had one woman who had more stuff in her T1 bag than I have in my whole bathroom! She wiped her face with a towel, put on deoderant, chamois butter, sunscreen (there was no sun this day), a bandaid on a new blister and...get this...lip gloss. Then she wiped her face with the towel again. But she was cool. She was out there, doing her first Ironman. So I tried to hurry her along, but she wasn't having any of it. She was going to take her sweet time in T1 and get ready for this painfully long day she had ahead of her. I saw her several times throughout the day. And she looked strong and happy.

    I tried to calm myself down, because for these athletes, the T1 time was irrelevant. I had to keep reminding myself that these women are just trying to complete the race. The time was unimportant, as long as it was under 17 hours. And I tried to calm them down, tell them they were doing a great job, the hard part was over. So many of them complained that the water was brutal, and the slow swim times posted verified their complaints. But they made it.

    The racers then started trickling in. The volunteers began just standing around as we did in the beginning. We smiled, nodded and all just relished in the awesome experience we just shared. Then we were told the swim was cut off. That's it, anyone who wasn't out of the water already would not be allowed to continue. A few people came in and moved on because they entered the water in time and it just took them time to get to T1. There were 17 lonely T1 gear bags scattered numerically in the room where over 2600 bags were once placed. Then a woman in a wetsuit walked in. The tears in her eyes were all we volunteers needed to see to realize she had not made the cut off. As she picked up her T1 bag and slowly walked over to the changing area, she was shaking her head and muttered, "It was so hard out there. I gave it everything I had."

    I couldn't look at her anymore. I was so overwhelmed with emotion thinking about the time and energy this woman must've put in for this race and her dreams were just stripped away from her. She hadn't missed the cut-off by much, but the rouh conditions are what probably robbed her from this experience. I took a deep breath and walked to the other side of the room to pre-occupy myself with some menial task until she left the changing tent. My heart went out to her, but I couldn't face her.

    Then it was time to get the bags in numerical order and put them back in the very same room that the athletes had taken them from. After seeing the disorganization after everyone had passed through, I decided it was amazing that any of us get our stuff back after an Ironman!! The volume of athletes running through there in such a short time is amazing. I helped put all the bags back in order and smiled. All these women were out now on the bike course, attacking the rest of this excruciatingly long day. And we had helped them get there. I felt awesome. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. It was truly an amazing day.

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Park Forest Scenic 10

    OK, so I'm way behind in the reporting arena, but hey, I got lots of stuff going on!

    The morning of the PF Scenic 10, I wished I hadn't signed up for the race. I had that hilly bike ride the day before, but more importantly, it was POURING RAIN! The last time I did this race, it rained. But, you know, you get up and drive to the race the whole time hoping that it will clear up before the race starts. I couldn't find my raincoat and I thought "Gee, this means I REALLY shouldn't go!" I thought it was a sign.

    However, I have this weird "thing" where if I sign up for a race, I'm doing it unless I'm on my deathbed or have some serious injury. It was chilly and drizzling as I walked quickly over to pick up my packet. I have no idea why the PF Scenic 10 t-shirts are so ugly. This is a premier race where they always bring in all these super fast people. Almost none of them can speak English and they all (including the men) weigh under 100 pounds. Well, I never really see these people until they do the awards presentation at the end.

    I planned to just run this for fun with no time goal in mind. It's amazing how different the whole race feels when you go into it with that attitude. I lined up with some friends at the back of the pack and planned to run with them through the race. Ten miles goes much faster when you can chatter with friends.

    Even as the gun went off for the race, it was drizzling. I don't really mind drizzle. That can make a run rather refreshing. It's that downpour of cats and dogs that gets your shoes and socks so soaking wet you get blisters that I can't stand. Takes your shoes DAYS to dry out after a run like that.

    Anyway, we started off at a nice, casual pace. A couple of hills made the pace seem harder than it should have, but the course is second to none. It starts in residential areas and then very quickly heads into forest preserve. The only problem with that is that the path is narrow. And with it raining, I didn't really want to try and pass people by running around them forcing myself to run in the grass. I just didn't care about my time so much to do that.

    The first 5 miles went by so fast it made me wish the race was longer (yeah, right). But then here's where the real fun began. I was now solo with a guy I had trained with all last year and run a couple marathons together. Our running abilities are very close, which makes us good running partners. We chatted the entire time, but we churned out negative splits the entire second half of the race. Mile after mile, the times kept going down. We'd smile at each other and keep chugging on, enjoying every step of each mile. It wasn't a full-out sprint down the finish chute, but we passed many people and it felt good.

    It rained almost the entire race, but at some point, it didn't matter. I was soaked at the end and had to go to the car to change immediately. One of the best things about the PF Scenic 10 (besides the course) is the after-party. They have plenty of food to choose from and the beer is flowing! I hung out with several friends, some new, some old, and watched the entire awards ceremony while just catching up.

    Another year of the PF Scenic 10. Hope to be back again next year.

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    Wright Stuff

    I was in a rush to pack my things to get up to Madison to do this Wright Stuff ride. Although they had a century (100 mile) option, we had chosen the 60 mile option. When you're starting out, 100 miles seems like no big deal. But for anyone who has ridden the hills of Madison, you know how quickly you realize how happy you are that you chose the 60 mile option. EVEN BETTER would have been the 30 mile option! But are you really going to drive to Madison to bike ride 30 miles? Probably not.

    I was pretty much out of my league with the bikers I had chosen to do this ride with. Almost all of them were pure cyclists by nature. Thankfully, I wasn't "shunned" for being a triathlete. Of course, I did not bring my TT bike. That would have been a big no-no. For this group of riders, the 18-19 mile per hour pace was "taking it easy." Are they nuts?? No, they are just well-trained.

    It was 26 miles before we hit the first SAG stop, and I couldn't have been happier. I was relieved to find out they had only been waiting about 3 minutes before I got there. The way they took off at the beginning made me ponder the fact that they could have been waiting 30 minutes before I got there!! We replenished our drinks, had some cookies and bananas and were off again. I only hoped it wasn't another 26 miles before we hit another SAG stop.

    The hills were tough. Well, none of them was quite as steep as the most difficult one at IMWI, but there were lots of hills that were quite long. And most of the time, just when you thought you were at the top, you were seriously disappointed as the road turned and you still had more than a quarter mile of climbing to do.

    I was able to get up to 38 miles per hour on some of the downhills, which can be a bit disconcerning when going around a corner. Although the roads are great, the scenery beautiful up in in Madison, less can be said for the irate drivers who seem more than put out to be sharing their roads with the cyclists. I didn't see any automobiles try to take any of the cyclists out, but they drove by at speeds of over 70 mph and many times beeped very rudely (i.e., not the courteous, "hey, I'm behind you" beep). I guess that's never going to stop.

    I caught my second wind with about 12 miles left to go. Maybe it's just that I could smell that the end was near. Or maybe I just wanted to get the hell off my bike as fast as possible, but I did a fair amount of drafting for a few miles and it felt fantastic! See, that's the one thing cyclists are used to that we triathletes are not. They draft in their pace lines, each taking turns "pulling". In triathlon, all that drafting is illegal, so we don't really practice it in training.

    We had the most perfect day to ride. It was only a little cool to start in the morning and it never really got "hot" outside. There was a bit of wind toward the end, and we were able to escape the inevitable rain storm that was slowly moving in.
    What a great way to spend Labor Day weekend. I hope to be able to do this ride again in future years.

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Remembering when...

    So this week, I was able to get out for a good weekday run with some friends. It's been a very long time since I ran for miles with good friends. I ran without concentrating on a pace, without trying to stick to a certain heart rate, or without trying to time everything out to the minute. The fun had returned to my training regimen.

    I went to the run dreading the fact that we were going to be running close to an hour and a half. I cringed when I put my running shoes on and sighed heavily as I wrapped the fuel belt around my waist. I did not want to do this. I tried to lollygag as much as I could before we started and we walked for quite a distance before we could even muster up the energy to turn our casual pace into a relaxed jog. It was chilly, windy and the sun would be setting soon.

    But as soon as the first half mile into the run, I was laughing, smiling, chatting and all these memories and feelings of my training from last year returned. See, last year, I felt like I trained with a "team". Sure, there were only 4 of us, but we were like gold. Always there to motivate and support each other. And sure, we fought, argued, yelled, screamed, and irritated each other at times, but when you spend a good amount of time with the same person/people, that's what happens. Just like every relationship goes though that phase, so it went with my training partners. But we were there for each other when it counted. Always.

    That's gone. It will never return. I can only hope I can somehow develop other training partner relationships like that in the future. It's what made my season last year so successful. It's hard not to do well at something when you're having so much fun. It's not always about how FAST you went or how you PLACED. The journey is more than half the battle. And if you can enjoy it, well, then I'd say you've had a successful season.

    So - to those of you that ran with me this week, thanks. You're what makes me continue this journey. I hope that we have many other training sessions like that. The time just seems to fly when you're having fun.